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Keywords:

  • biological phenomena;
  • cellular structures;
  • mesothelium;
  • pleura;
  • wound healing

The mesothelium is composed of an extensive monolayer of specialized cells (mesothelial cells) that line the body's serous cavities and internal organs. Traditionally, this layer was thought to be a simple tissue with the sole function of providing a slippery, non-adhesive and protective surface to facilitate intracoelomic movement. However, with the gradual accumulation of information about serosal tissues over the years, the mesothelium is now recognized as a dynamic cellular membrane with many important functions. These include transport and movement of fluid and particulate matter across the serosal cavities, leucocyte migration in response to inflammatory mediators, synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines, growth factors and extracellular matrix proteins to aid in serosal repair, release of factors to promote both the deposition and clearance of fibrin, and antigen presentation. Furthermore, the secretion of molecules, such as glycosaminoglycans and lubricants, not only protects tissues from abrasion, but also from infection and possibly tumour dissemination. Mesothelium is also unlike other epithelial-like surfaces because healing appears diffusely across the denuded surface, whereas in true epithelia, healing occurs solely at the wound edges as sheets of cells. Although controversial, recent studies have begun to shed light on the mechanisms involved in mesothelial regeneration. In the present review, the current understanding of the structure and function of the mesothelium and the biology of mesothelial cells is discussed, together with recent insights into the mechanisms regulating its repair.